Natures Home magazine uncovered

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Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Natures Home magazine uncovered

Behind the scenes at the RSPB magazine and much much more...
  • Incoming!

    My name is James Shooter and I have been volunteering at RSPB Birds Magazine as an editorial assistant for the past couple of months.  If you've written into the magazine recently, chances are I've responded to you (along with fellow volunteer Roger Bardell). 

    I really enjoy reading through the varied emails you send in.  I answer your questions, read about what you've been up to and definitely learn a few new things myself.  I also love to see the fantastic photographs our readers have been taking and part of my work is the difficult task of helping to choose which of your great images to print. 

    I'm a very keen nature photographer myself and I have been lucky enough to get images published in the national newspapers (including the front page of The Daily Telegraph in January) and also won a couple of awards including 2nd place in the student category of the Scottish Nature Photography Awards this year. 

    I thought I'd use this blog as a way of sharing my experiences and images with you.  Over the coming weeks I will be posting some of my favourite photographs and offering hints and tips to hopefully inspire you to get out with your cameras even more and to keep sending in your stunning photos.  My first image looks at light:

    "Incoming!"


    Light is the most important factor in photography, it enables us to record what we see and the way we use it can produce very different images.  With photography you need to think about the quality of light, the direction and angle it's coming from, it's intensity and the colour temperature.  Here I've photographed a common species, in great light, and it makes all the difference. 

    I visited this loch in the Cairngorms at sunset, which gave a nice warm cast to the evening colours.  The sun is positioned low in the sky and behind the subject which lights up the back of the bird instead of the front, creating a "rim-lit" effect around the edges of this mallard.  With a dark background behind, this rim-lit effect makes the shape of the duck stand out really well and offers a different perspective than a daylight shot.  Next time you're out with the camera, really think about light and the way you can use it.  Perhaps go out at sunrise or sunset instead of the middle of the day and challenge yourself to think about where your subject will receive the best lighting.

    For more of my work you can visit my website at: www.jamesshooter.com or if you're on facebook you can like my page: www.facebook.com/jamesshooterphotography

    I'll be back on here next week with another photograph and more tips. 

    Thanks for reading,

    James.

     

  • Something for breakfast

    Guest blogger: Sybil Kapoor

    Who can resist climbing out of their sleeping bag to see the dawn? As the sun rises at just before 5.40am for the Big Wild Sleepout, you should set your alarm a little earlier so that you can watch the night fade with the first rays of the sun. At this magical hour you might see deer or even a hare, nibbling the dewy grass in the early morning mist. You’ll certainly spot many birds as they flutter in the undergrowth hunting out seeds and insects. If you’re very lucky you might see a beautiful barn owl silently hunting over meadows and river banks before retiring for the day.

    Bacon soda bread

    Such activity creates an appetite for breakfast, so treat yourself to an alfresco breakfast with some buttered bacon soda bread and any remaining cherry tomatoes. As the sun rises, look out for insects and lizards warming themselves in the sun. If you’re near a pond, you might see lots of young froglets basking in the day’s warmth as the dragonflies skim across the surface.

    Like all soda breads, this is best eaten on the day of making, but for a breakfast picnic, you can make it ahead, freeze it and then allow to defrost overnight.

    Makes 450g/1lb loaf

    150g/5½ oz (6 slices) dry-cured back bacon (smoked or unsmoked)

    2 tablespoons cold-pressed rapeseed oil

    450g/1lb plain white flour

    1 ½ teaspoons salt

    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

    150ml/5 ½ fl oz soured cream

    150ml/5 ½ fl oz water + extra as needed

     

    1 Preheat the oven to fan 200°C/gas 7. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

    2 Trim the bacon of any fat and cut into small dice. Set a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the oil, and once hot, fry the diced bacon briskly for 4-5 minutes, until lightly coloured and just beginning to turn crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the pan and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper. 

    3 Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Stir in the fried bacon. Whisk together the cream and 150ml/5 ½ fl oz water. Stir the thinned cream into the flour. Mix together and, if necessary, add a little more water until you have a soft, but not a sticky dough. Different flours absorb different amounts of water, so you may need to add a further 50ml/scant 2fl oz.

    4 Turn out on to a clean, lightly floured surface and quickly work into a smooth dough. Shape into a round loaf, place on the baking sheet and cut a deep cross in the top of the loaf.

    5 Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden on top and cooked through. Keep an eye on it towards the last 5-10 minutes and cover with foil for the last 5 minutes if it is going too brown. It is cooked when it sounds hollow if tapped on its bottom. Slip on to a wire rack and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes before eating.

    6 For your picnic breakfast – leave until completely cold, then place in a freezer bag, push out any air, seal tightly and freeze. Only remove from the freezer when you’re packing your picnic.

    Recipe from National Trust Simply Baking

    Photography by Karen Thomas

  • Back in Black!

    Last week I wrote a small blog post on one of my photographs looking at the importance of light.  Once you understand the different aspects of light and know how to control it with your camera, you can get creative with Exposure.  Exposure is defined as the amount of light allowed to fall on the sensor if digital, or film if not.  

    An underexposed image means there will be large areas of detail lost to blacks and shadows whereas an overexposed image will look washed out with the details lost to bright whites.  Correctly exposed photographs will generally have a broad range of tones and will allow for the most amount of detail to be kept.  By understanding how your camera reads a scene, you can then take control of your exposure and get some stunning results:

    "Back in Black"

    Here is a photograph of a crested tit (Lophophanes cristatus) taken at a dedicated feeding station in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland.  This is a true highland specialist here in the UK and can only be found in the remnants of Ancient Caledonian Pine-forest in North Scotland.  This was a bit of a bogey bird for me the previous year as I'd only ever caught glimpses of them at the tops of tall pine trees so it was fantastic to see them so close up.  

    By positioning myself to shoot with the sun (instead of against it like with last weeks mallard), I would have the perch and bird nicely lit up from the front.  Directly behind the crested tit was a dark area of shadow created by tall pine trees.  I knew that my camera would be screaming out at me that the whole scene was too dark because of this large area of shadow, and it would naturally want to brighten it up to achieve what it could determine would be a correctly exposed image.  However, if the camera was allowed to brighten this shadow to get some detail out of it, the crested tit would be overexposed as a result.  Knowing this, I was able to set my camera to underexpose the scene (by 1 and 2/3 stops to those interested), therefore keeping the dark area dark and the important parts correctly exposed.

    By doing this I achieved a uniform black background which makes this fantastic bird stand out even more, there are no distractions to lead away from the subject and all focus is placed on the bird.  If you want to improve your nature photography, really get to grips with your camera and understand when you can and can't trust it's readings.  Think about your backgrounds and if there's an area of shadow to shoot into, remember to control your exposure to achieve a beautiful new perspective.

    For more of my work you can visit my website at: www.jamesshooter.com or if you're on facebook you can like my page: www.facebook.com/jamesshooterphotography

    I'll be back on here next week with another photograph and more tips. 

    Thanks for reading,

    James.